Why is My Dog Walking Sideways and Twisting Its Body in a C-Shape or Crab-Like Position?


If you’ve been wondering why your dog has recently taken to walking on its hind legs while twisting its body into a C-shaped crab pattern, you’re not alone. This behavior can seem quite strange to dog owners, and can even be worrying as it could signify an underlying health issue. It is important to note that this behavior may not necessarily indicate any type of illness in your canine companion; some dogs simply display such movement patterns as a means of communication, or in order to increase their comfort level in a certain space.

In this article, we will explore the potential causes of your pet’s curious behavior and look at strategies for addressing them. We will examine the various medical explanations that could be behind the peculiar movements, as well as offer some guidelines for observing and enhancing the wellbeing of your beloved pooch. Finally, we discuss overall tips for reducing stress levels and increasing comfortability when it comes to your pup’s sideways walking patterns.

Possible Causes

If you’ve noticed that your dog is walking sideways or in a twisting ‘C’ shape crab like movement, it can be concerning. It could be an indication of a number of physical or neurological issues, or of a dog that is attempting to evade pain by walking in an abnormal manner.

To determine the cause, let’s explore some of the potential causes that may explain why your dog is walking in this abnormal pattern:

Neurological Issues

Neurological issues, such as a stroke or head trauma, may be the cause of your dog CRabbing. This type of behavior results from an imbalance in their body’s nervous system. Any movement disorder or neurologic abnormality can cause a change in yourdog’s gait and leg positioning resulting in them walking sideways or crab walking.

When a canine suffers from an issue with the nervous system, it affects their overall movement and stability.

A few common causes of these types of neurological conditions include:

  • infections (bacterial, viral and fungal)
  • osteoarthritis
  • neurological degeneration
  • hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • epileptic seizures.

A veterinarian must rule out any potential medical causes before diagnosing this as her only symptom.

If your dog has had a recent head trauma or is exhibiting other physical signs including incoordination, balance problems or weakness then a CT scan may be warranted to evaluate the severity of their condition. If they are having difficulty maintaining balance while standing up on all fours they could experience spinal disc problems at the level causing pain and pressure on their nerves leading to their bizarre behavior of walking sideways with twisting body movements resembling crab walking. Your vet should also check for any toxin exposure that might have caused damage to your pup’s nervous system, as well as check for metabolic disturbances due to diabetes, Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism which all affect brain activity leading to strange behavior like crabbing.

Your vet may recommend medication or rehabilitative therapy depending on the diagnosis so it’s best to find out the underlying cause as soon as possible in order to get your pup back on his paws!

Vestibular Disease

Vestibular Disease, sometimes referred to as Geriatric Vestibular Syndrome, is an inflammation of the nerves that control balance and coordination. The disease can have a wide variety of causes, such as exposure to toxins or chemicals, an inner ear infection or headache, or cognitive decline.

Dogs with vestibular disease usually walk in a crab-like position, with the head held upside down and body twisted into a C shape, accompanied by fast-twitching movements of their body and limbs. It can also cause the dog to tilt its head to one side. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.

Treatment for vestibular disease involves treating the underlying cause (if known) with supportive care such as fluid therapy or medications depending on the severity of symptoms; however it may take several weeks for your dog to fully recover. If there is no underlying cause found, physical therapy may be prescribed in order to help your dog regain its sense of balance and coordination.


Pain is the most common reason why dogs begin to walk in odd ways like shaping their bodies into a C-shape or crab walking. Dogs may begin to walk sideways, twisting the body in the unnatural “C” shape when they experience hip pain, shoulder pain, spinal pain and discomfort. It is especially common for older dogs that suffer from arthritis and other chronic conditions to adopt strange walking styles associated with discomfort and decreased mobility.

The C-shape crab walking often occurs in addition to signs of pain such as whining, yelping or wincing while touched. Lameness is also commonly seen along with decreased activity levels as your dog moves with it’s head pointed down and its back arched upward. Dogs may also be irritable or aggressive if they are experiencing too much pain from an injury or compression of muscles surrounding their hips or spine.

If your dog is walking oddly it should always be examined for medical causes before you assume the behavior is normal for your animal’s breed type or age group.

Vision Issues

Vision issues can be a possible cause for your dog walking sideways with a twisted body in a C shape, otherwise known as crab walking. Vision loss or vision problems can lead to confusion and disorientation which is why you see your pooch moving around randomly, even in circles.

Signs that your pup may be having vision problems include rubbing the eyes, blinking excessively, having red eyes, cloudy spots in the lens of their eye and not wanting to engage with their environment. Depending on the cause of vision loss, your vet will recommend appropriate medication or treatment options. It is essential that any underlying condition causing the vision issue is treated and addressed by a veterinarian before any further damage may occur.

In some cases involving vestibular disease, inner ear problems can cause dogs to walk sideways and lurch to one side as they try to regain balance. Treatment will depend on the exact cause and could range from medications such as antibiotics or steroids to certain therapies prescribed by your vet such as vestibular rehabilitation or exercises.

Another potential culprit for odd behavior like crab walking could be neurologic conditions such as epilepsy which can affect the brain leading to some abnormal movements like jerky sideways motions when walking around along with seizures caused by electrical discharges from within the brain itself. In these cases it is important that you seek medical attention from a veterinarian soon so that proper testing can be done for an accurate diagnosis of this potentially serious condition.


Anxiety, whether due to a medical condition or situational stress, can cause dogs to display odd and out-of-character behaviors. These behaviors can include walking in circles or sideways in a C shape, sometimes referred to as “crab walking.” Dogs who are scared or stressing may also shake and tremble, whine, pace and pant heavily.

It is important for dog owners to identify the source of their pet’s anxiety so that you can work on a strategy for managing it. Possible causes of anxiety include:

  • Fear–based aggression or reactivity caused by fear of noises such as fireworks;
  • Overwhelming situations such as going to the vet or night time disturbances;
  • Adolescent fears;
  • Emotional disturbances from living with humans; and
  • Environmental changes from moving or redecorating your home.

The first step is identifying the cause so that you and your veterinarian can develop an appropriate plan.


If your dog has been walking sideways and in a C-shape crab like formation, it is important to understand what might be causing this behavior. In order to determine why your dog may be displaying this type of behavior and to seek further diagnosis, it is important to consider the signs and symptoms and to speak to a pet professional.

Let’s take a look at the possible causes and diagnosis of this unusual behavior:

Physical Exam

A physical exam should be done before any other type of diagnostics. During the exam, the veterinarian will check for signs of pain or discomfort that could indicate a problem. This can include examining your dog’s eyes and ears, taking his temperature, observing his movements, and palpating his joints and muscles. This is an important step in determining the cause of your dog’s strange behavior.

Other diagnostic tests may include:

  • Blood tests to check for metabolic or inflammatory disorders;
  • Urinalysis to look for infection;
  • Imaging techniques such as X-rays or an ultrasound to check for muscle damage or pain;
  • Arthroscopy to evaluate joint health;
  • CT scans to look for issues with internal organs or tumors;
  • Spinal taps to see if inflammation is present in the spine; and
  • Myelograms (an X-ray taken after injecting contrast dye into fluid around the nerves) to look at spinal cord compression.

If more information is needed, other procedures may be recommended by your veterinarian such as biopsies of tissues from affected organs. Further treatment may include medications such as antibiotics, steroids, muscle relaxants, topical creams or ointments, glucosamine chondroitin supplements), acupuncture, physical therapy, etc., depending on what underlying condition is identified by the diagnostics performed.

Blood Tests

In some cases, the cause of a dog walking sideways or exhibiting the C-shape crab walk may not be visible on physical exam and further laboratory work will necessary to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Common tests that your veterinarian may recommend include blood tests, such as thyroid profile, complete blood count (CBC), chemistry panel, Vitamin B1 level and urine testing.

Blood tests can aid in detecting diseases that cause abnormal mimicking of these symptoms such as meningitis or encephalitis due to canine distemper virus or another type of virus, idiopathic vestibular disease, ear infections and more serious conditions such as cancer or trauma. Thyroid testing is important for testing for low thyroid hormone levels which can cause neurological signs in dogs. The CBC test measure different components of the blood including red & white blood cells count and can indicate inflammation around the brain if elevated white cell counts are seen. The Chemistry Profile looks at important parameters in the body such as electrolytes, kidney & liver function tests which can help identify diseases caused by metabolic issues and nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin B1 deficiency has also been identified to be a possible underlying cause for this condition in some cases especially young puppies transitioning after weaning period. Urine testing looks at urinary concentration capacity providing information about kidney health but also homeostasis regulating conditions such as hyponatremia which can indicate itching, wobbling gait and anorexia caused by cerebral salt wasting syndrome.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests, especially Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT) scans, can provide visuals of how your dog looks inside without the need for surgery. MRIs are best used when trying to detect problems with the head, neck, and spinal cord; while CT scans can look at other body parts in detail.

These diagnostic tests can be used to determine the cause of your pet’s condition before pursuing any treatment options. It is important to note that while they are very helpful in diagnosing a condition or disease quickly and accurately, they come with risks such as allergic reactions or adverse effects from contrast agents used during the scan. Therefore, make sure you consult with a qualified veterinary professional prior to having these tests conducted on your furry friend.


If your dog is exhibiting signs of walking sideways and making a twisting body C shape or crab walking, it is important to seek veterinary care right away. The cause of this behavior can range from physical pain or discomfort to deeper neurological issues, and it is important to get a diagnosis and treatment for your pup to ensure that their health and well-being is taken care of.

We’ll look at the causes of this behavior and discuss the potential treatment options:


Medication may be necessary in some cases to treat why a dog is walking sideways with a twisting body in a C-shape, also known as crab walking. In certain conditions, like vestibular disease and auto-immune-mediated diseases, anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids may be prescribed. Depending on the cause of the sideways crab walk, your dog may also need some type of antibiotic if an infection is present.

Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination and obtain laboratory tests such as blood work, urinalysis and x-rays to determine the underlying cause of your pet’s condition. Diagnostic imaging such as an MRI may also be ordered to identify any changes in the brain or spinal cord.

If an infestation of fleas or ticks is suspected as the cause behind why your dog is walking sideways, then topical flea preventatives or anti-parasitic drugs will be recommended by your veterinarian to treat them. Flea control products are available over the counter at pet stores or online; however, it’s important that you read product labels carefully before using them on your pet.

Physical Therapy

If your four-legged friend has been exhibiting abnormal body movements, such as walking sideways, twisting their body in a c-shape, or other seemingly uncontrollable movements, they may be suffering from a condition called Torticollis. This condition is caused by an imbalance of the muscles and can be quite painful for your pet.

Depending on the severity of the Torticollis, physical therapy may be needed to relieve discomfort and restore normal movement.

Physical therapy for resolving Torticollis in dogs usually consists of:

  • Stretching exercises that work to improve flexibility as well as muscle strengthening exercises.
  • These exercises help strengthen muscles around the neck and shoulder area to provide better support and improved body alignment.
  • In addition to traditional exercise techniques, techniques such as massage can also help reduce inflammation and promote healing.

With appropriate exercise and rest, your furry friend should be able to regain their normal movement in a few weeks’ time.

Diet and Exercise

When a dog is seen walking in a crab-like motion, which is characterized by a twisting of the spine or body in a C-shape and accompanied by sideways movements, this can be caused by several things. These include dietary deficiencies, pain from injuries or medical conditions such as arthritis.

Diet and exercise are key components to helping reduce the symptoms of this condition and maintain overall health for your pup. Eating species appropriate food, full of vitamins, minerals and nutrients can help ensure your pup has all their nutritional needs met, as well as staying active with regular walks or playtime to improve musculoskeletal strength may also support improved mobility.

Additionally, there are foods which you can add to your pup’s diet that contain antioxidants and vitamins that work to support joint health, muscle performance and nerve function; ingredients such as

  • glucosamine (shellfishes),
  • chondroitin sulfate (beef)and
  • omega fatty acids (salmon)

are powerful wins for joint health! Consult with your vet if you want to make any dietary changes – they will be able to help advise if supplementation would be beneficial in helping reduce the intensity of symptom severity.


Understanding why your dog may be walking sideways in a C-Shape crab position can be the first step in helping to prevent this potentially serious condition. The cause can range from medical issues to behavioral, so it is important to rule out any health issues before you attempt to address the issue through behavior modification.

Let’s look at some of the things you can do to prevent your dog from this strange behavior:

Regular Vet Visits

Regular visits to the veterinarian are important in determining a pet’s overall state of health and wellness. Veterinary examinations can help diagnose any potential health issues in their earliest stages, before they become more serious problems. Twice-yearly visits with your veterinarian for routine checkups, vaccines and preventive screenings will help ensure your dog remains fit and healthy well into its senior years.

Aside from the routine physical exam, there are other measures which can be taken to prevent illnesses that could cause dogs to walk sideways with a twisting body shape. Puppies and kittens should be vaccinated on a regular schedule, as recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Vaccines are important in protecting against serious diseases like parvovirus, rabies and distemper that could come from contact with other dogs or wild animals such as raccoons or bats.

In addition to vaccines, preventive measures should also be taken for fleas and ticks. This can be done through topical or oral treatments which kill adult fleas or prevent eggs from hatching; medications for worms; or sprays for use in fenced-in yards. Keeping up on routine checkups with your veterinarian throughout the year is an essential step in maintaining your pet’s health and preventing them from developing conditions like the one described here.

Proper Nutrition

Proper nutrition can help keep your dog healthy and prevent many issues. Dogs are naturally carnivores and need to maintain a diet that includes high-quality animal proteins, fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals. By feeding your pet all of these essential nutrients, they will be able to maintain a healthy weight and bone strength while reducing the risk of diseases like arthritis or joint issues. A consistent diet of nutritionally balanced dry kibble or fresh ingredients tailored to your pet’s individual needs will ensure they stay in optimal health.

In addition, supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce inflammation in joints and muscles, providing them with additional support. You may also want to consider adding sources of glucosamine and chondroitin which can improve joint health in dogs that suffer from arthritis or other painful conditions.

Keeping your puppy at a healthy weight can also help minimize their risk for joint and muscle issues such as walking sideways or twisting body C shape crabs. Monitor their food intake closely so that they do not become overweight or underweight due to an improper diet plan. If you have any concerns about your pup’s nutritional needs, consult with a veterinarian for more advice on proper nutrition for them.


Exercise is an important part of prevention and treatment when it comes to canine body twisting. Regular walks and periods of playtime in a secure outside area can help keep your dog’s body and mind healthy. Dogs suffering from arthritis or other joint issues may benefit from low impact activities such as swimming, on-lead walks, or therapeutic massage. Your veterinarian can help you determine what form of exercise is best for your dog’s condition.

Additionally, maintaining your dog’s physical condition through diet and maintaining a proper body weight is essential for avoiding additional pressure on joints, bones, muscles, and soft tissues that could lead to sideways walking or twisting the body into the shape of a crab. It’s generally not possible to reverse existing medical conditions caused by twisting behaviors. Early diagnosis which includes extensive range of motion tests and imaging is essential for proper treatment options.

To prevent further pain leading to injury or worse quality of life as your pet ages it’s important to educate yourself how best to provide care for your canine companion based on their individual needs.


In conclusion, the cause of a dog walking sideways with a twisting body in a C-shape is likely to be an injury or the onset of an illness, such as Wobbler’s syndrome or another neurological problem. Treatment will depend on the root cause and guidance should be sought from your vet.

Monitoring your dog constantly when they move and looking out for any changes in their behavior may alert you to any further issues earlier rather than later. In many cases, these issues may be age-related or caused by previous injuries and are temporary, but seeking professional advice should always be your priority.

Jenna Kassidy

Jenna Kassidy is a passionate writer and dog lover. With a background in English literature and animal behavior, she combines her two passions to bring readers of Paw Appreciation, a blog about all things canine, the latest in research, training and health tips, as well as heartwarming stories and a wealth of information on different dog breeds.

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